The Taste: Mamma Roma’s, The Real Napoletano Experience
Nov 28, 2017 11:05AM ● Published by Arden Haley
By Rita Calvert
8743 Piney Orchard Pkwy, Odenton | 410-695-0247
It is said that Mamma Roma and her sons ARE Italy—with its menu of “yummy and affordable food” at Mamma Roma’s in Odenton. Considered a neighborhood spot, it has a loyal following for dining-in or a quick pizza pickup at the curb! With a successful 11-year history, this resilience is hard to come by in a food business unless you provide amazing service and quality fare. In terms of flavor combinations, it’s authentic, not novel. But they get it right with the little touches of care and finesse for a home-cooked meal that hits all the right notes of Italian comfort food.
I got together with brothers and owners, Bruno and Rino Romeo, to understand how they manage to maintain such a consistently pleasing slice of Southern Italy. Bruno did most of the talking, and with his copper colored hair, seemed to add an impish side of humor to our conversation. Rino is considered the more creative and comes up with new dishes for the restaurant.
Mamma Roma’s in Odenton gets great reviews and many stars. What do you attribute that to?
With a face full of expression, Bruno responds, “Hard work and dedication have gotten us here. We really, really care! We love what we do and put our heart into it. Usually we’re able to please everyone. If there is an issue, we are there to talk it through and make it ok. We are extremely hands-on. We are always thinking what we can do to make it better.”
Many of the recipes of the Southern Italian style food comes from family recipes back in Naples, which makes the dishes so authentically Italian and a unique experience here.
Since we are always looking for winning ideas, we have started “Catch of the Day” and it’s very popular. We see what is fresh at the fish market and then buy the whole fish. We filet it in-house so it tastes as fresh as it can. None of those frozen filets for us!
How long have you been in business? Give us an overview of the history.
- 2005 - Rino and I opened a pizza shop in Baltimore. I came from Italy just two weeks before the opening to help Rino.
- 2006 - We sold the Baltimore shop and opened Odenton in the Piney Orchard Community where Rino and I worked together.
- 2008 - We opened Largo, Maryland, and Rino was in charge while I stayed at Piney Orchard. In the meantime, Mamma came over from Italy to help me at Piney Orchard.
- 2010 - We sold Largo and opened Brandywine. At the beginning, Rino and I were switching back and forth. Then Rino took over and I stayed at Piney orchard.
- August 2016 - We sold the Brandywine location.
Since then we have been working together in the primary location while we expanded our catering side.
How would you describe your food? Would you call it Italian-American?
We are from Naples in Southern Italy and our food represents the food of that area where olive oil is used in abundance and red sauce rules, rather than the cream sauces of Northern Italy. The core of our menu is truly Italian. Some of the newer dishes we have tested and created with cream sauces may be considered more Italian-American.
We also do run our business as a restaurant would be (run) in Italy.
At Mamma Roma’s, one places the order at the counter and pays for it in advance. Then a server brings it out to the table. What made you decide to go with this style?
We want to make sure that we don’t intimidate (customers) with too formal a place. We want our restaurant to be casual and comfortable where everyone feels right at home. This way when folks come in, Mamma greets everyone, remembers them, and almost always knows what they like to order. Our customers are family!
Aside from pizza, what are your most-loved dishes?
Actually it’s our pizza, pasta, and subs that are the favorites. After that our homemade Lasagna, Seafood Extravaganza (recipe below), Fettuccine Mediterraneo, and Eggplant Parmesan are loved and ordered frequently.
With a fully operating restaurant for lunch and dinner, catering and special events, and lots of homemade food, how many employees do you have?
We have close to 30 employees who are dedicated to our business. Since we have started catering, that business has increased which keeps our staff very busy. We are launching our homemade bottled MaRinora Sauce that will be sold in the restaurant. That will certainly keep extra people hopping.
Bruno and Rino, what are you most proud of in your restaurant? What’s up for the future?
We are the most proud of the fresh quality of our food as we make everything in-house from the bread, pizza dough, and bread crumbs. We buy our whole fish fresh from the market and filet it here, including calamari. We pound our own chicken breasts and meats. Keeping our place family-friendly is a practice we are proud of as our customers become one of us. Folks know we care. Mamma may not speak a lot of English, but she knows our customers and can even remember what they like to order.
We continually review our food and keep our eyes and ears open for new ideas. We have begun using organic tomatoes, imported from Italy, for our maRinora sauce. By the time this article is out, we will have our signature maRinora (with organic tomatoes) bottled for retail sale right here in Mamma Roma’s. The concept of a true Napoletano Espresso bar is intriguing to us since it’s very different from coffee houses here. We are thinking we may add an Italian Espresso Bar concept in Piney Orchard.
As we say on our menu, “Our Passion is Food, Our Love is Family!”
The Taste: Seafood Extravaganza
As in true Italian home cooking, precise measurements are not used. Bruno says it’s more a matter of just feeling what is needed. Go with your instincts on this one.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 8 ounces calamari, cleaned and cut
- 8 medium raw shrimp, cleaned
- 10 mussels, in the shell
- 10 littleneck clams, in the shell
- 4 large sea scallops
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup seafood stock
- Pinch each salt and pepper
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 5 ounces lump crabmeat
- 2 cups cooked al dente linguini
Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom. Add garlic, cook quickly, remove and reserve.
Add shrimp, mussels, and clams to the oil in pan and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes, white wine, stock, salt and pepper, and marinara sauce; cook on medium-high heat until shell fish open.
Add the crabmeat and cooked linguini and toss gently. Place equal portions of linguine on each serving plate. Arrange equal portions of seafood on top of pasta and ladle extra sauce over.